PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: OVERALL GRADE C-
1.) NICK FOLES: GRADE: C+
WEIGHT: 243 lbs
ARM STRENGTH/ACCURACY: Nick Foles has a strong-arm, but questionable accuracy when on the move. Foles can toss deep balls without issue, provided he isn’t pressured and can set his feet. He had many under throws in the ’12-’13 season, but these came at times when he botched his footwork, or was hurried. He also had problems working through his progressions, and missed opportunities while locating receivers, sometimes making a poor decision and throwing into traffic. The instability of the offensive line worsens these issues for Foles, as he consistently sees pressure with a collapsing pocket.
EXPERIENCE: Foles played in seven games last season after Michael Vick was benched following a concussion. Foles threw for 1,699 yards, six touchdowns, and five interceptions. The Eagles lost six of the seven games Foles played in. He finished week 16 of the regular season with a 60.8% completion percentage, and a career passer rating of 79.1.
MOBILITY: Foles is not a dual-threat. At the combine, in 2012, he ran a 5.13s 40-yard dash. People often associate the read-option (which Chip Kelly ran at Oregon in his spread offense) with speed, however the key components to plays of that nature are usually split-second decision-making abilities and decisiveness. Foles’ lack of mobility outside of the pocket won’t necessarily hurt his chances of starting for the Eagles.
BOTTOM LINE: Foles was far from perfect in his rookie season, but with the Eagles’ issues at seemingly EVERY position, I was actually impressed by his abilities. I am currently projecting him as the starter for the Eagles in 2013, provided they don’t take a chance on a new quarterback in the draft. Contrary to popular belief, I think Foles has the edge on Vick as well due to Kelly’s scheme. No one knows yet what type of system Kelly will implement, or whether he’ll adjust his scheme for the NFL, but at Oregon, he ran a very up-tempo, spread offense that ran lots of no-huddle, and option plays. This is a very similar system to that which Foles ran in Arizona under Mike Stoops.
2.) MICHAEL VICK: GRADE: C
WEIGHT: 215 lbs
COLLEGE: VIRGINIA TECH
ARM STRENGTH/ACCURACY: Michael Vick’s arm strength has always been one of the more impressive aspects of his play, but recently his accuracy on those deep balls, post routes, and slants has struggled. He does, however, still have moderate accuracy on the run, which is valuable behind a thin offensive line.
RUNNING ABILITY/DURABILITY: Vick epitomizes the dual threat. Small, fast and elusive; if you give him an opening, he’ll make you pay for it. His legs could add a dimension to Chip Kelly’s offense, but health concerns have me worried about Vick’s future performance. Traditionally, although it seems counterintuitive, pocket-passing quarterbacks see harder hits on sacks and are more frequently injured than mobile quarterbacks who venture out of the pocket. Vick scrambles, and runs on designed plays, he slides when needed, and still he has played a full 16 only ONCE in his entire career. Even if Vick is named the starter, past history dictates Foles will likely play at some point.
EXPERIENCE: Vick is, by far, the most experienced quarterback on the Eagles roster. He’s a veteran, having played ten seasons in the NFL, participated in four Pro-Bowls, passed for 20,274 yards, and currently holds the record for most QB rush yards at 5,551. He has, however, performed poorly in up-tempo, no huddle situations. His diminishing speed, and aging body would require his decision-making and accuracy to be on point in a no huddle, and those traits were markedly absent from his play for most of last season.
DECISION MAKING: In the contests he participated in over the past two seasons, Vick threw 24 interceptions, averaging 1.04 int. per game. His natural decision making abilities seem to have slowed down. Vick makes good decisions when he’s not facing pressure, but he often holds the ball too long, and against pressure, he threw six interceptions last season, completing only 41.4% of all pressured passes. This, more than anything else, concerns me on his ability to run Kelly’s offense. Decision-making is absolutely critical, and I’m not sure Vick is able to work quickly enough through his progressions to make it work.
BOTTOM LINE: Although he still flashes glimpses of greatness at times, Michael Vick is not the quarterback he once was. Aspects of his play would fit well with Chip Kelly’s offensive scheme, but serious durability concerns, and drop offs in performance may mark the end of Vick’s NFL starting career with the Eagles.
3.) MATT BARKLEY: GRADE: C+
WEIGHT: 227 lbs
ARM STRENGTH/ACCURACY: Matt Barkley’s arm strength was the most talked about aspect of his game this past draft season, with the majority of those voices negative. In my opinion, Barkley has what it takes to throw the ball the distance (ask Oregon, Utah or Arizona State about his 70+ yard bombs in ‘12). He has the proper mechanics to throw a proper arc deep down the field, and led receivers well on long throws. His arm strength issues that I’ve seen are mostly on short and intermediate throws, where he consistently lacks zip on those passes. Unfortunately for Barkley, he made most of his throws within ten yards last season; with some of those low velocity throws accounting towards his 15 interceptions over 11 games.
PLAY IN SCHEME: This is where it gets interesting. Matt Barkley is at the opposite end of the spectrum from a Chip Kelly-esque Oregon scheme quarterback. Barkley is a pure pocket passer, who nobody would expect to run a read-option incorporating spread offense. He’s not mobile, or very athletic and his traditional passing play does not mesh with Kelly’s creative up-tempo scheme at all. This makes me question Kelly’s true plan for the coming season. If he has Barkley warming the bench, then it seems like a wasted draft pick, but if he plans on using Barkley, provided he wins the Eagle’s open quarterback competition, Kelly must have plans to run a different offensive scheme from what we saw at Oregon.
BOTTOM LINE: With Barkley, all I see is a solid, future back-up quarterback. It’s not that he isn’t talented, so much as that he’s being put in a system that could potentially fit none of the requirements he needs for success. Depending on Chip Kelly’s style of play in the coming seasons, Barkley could wind up a potential starter, or he could find himself out of a job with the Eagles.
4.) IN THE MIX: GRADE: D
DENNIS DIXON: Dixon recently signed a two-year deal with the Eagles, and joined their quarterback corps. The 28 year old has average arm strength and accuracy at an NFL level. His potential is difficult to gauge, as he has only played in four games since 2008, when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him. In those few games, he was intercepted twice, and finished with 402 passing yards, and 35 completions on 59 attempts. Despite this very lackluster production, he’s gotten publicity in Philadelphia recently, because he played for Oregon with Chip Kelly as his offensive coordinator. Dixon is fast (running a 4.58 40-yard dash), and people expect him to be a viable option for Kelly’s option play. This seems unworkable to me though, as the option is only truly effective when a strong passer is running it. Dixon is “in the mix,” but likely won’t ever step on the game field in 2013.
DALLAS COWBOYS: OVERALL GRADE B+
1.) TONY ROMO: GRADE: B+
WEIGHT: 230 lbs
COLLEGE: EASTERN ILLINOIS
ARM STRENGTH/ACCURACY: Tony Romo has excellent arm strength and accuracy. When he isn’t facing immediate pressure, he is very capable of throwing high velocity, short and intermediate routes and connecting with receivers in tight windows. His deep ball is highly accurate down the sideline, and he very effectively leads receivers on post routes. His major issue comes from pressure. According to Pro Football Focus, his completion average (for 2012) drops significantly, from 71.5% to 49.4% when he is hurried, and Dallas’ offensive line is, unfortunately for Romo, rather anemic.
EXPERIENCE: Since 2006, Romo’s first real season as the quarterback of the Cowboys, he has thrown for 25,737 yards, 177 touchdowns, 91 interceptions, and has turned over 33 fumbles. Now we get to the interesting bit. Tony Romo seemingly has the inability to win games that are highly consequential. Romo (in terms of his arm) is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL, but mentally he can’t hold it together when it’s all on the line. In 2006, Romo fumbled a 19-yard field goal snap that would have taken the Cowboys over the Seahawks and on to the second round of the playoffs. The following year he threw an interception (during what could have been a game winning drive) with one minute left on the game clock, ensuring a Giants victory, and a Cowboys playoff elimination. Just this past year, Romo threw three interceptions against the Redskins in their NFC East-deciding, week 17 showdown.
MOBILITY: In north/south rushing situations, Romo is by no means a fast runner. In 2003 at the NFL combine, Romo ran a 5.01s 40-yard dash. If anything, that speed has only diminished over the past ten years. Romo is also lacking in the lateral agility you might see in a dual threat; however, these weaknesses don’t hurt his play. He primarily plays out of the pocket, and it is here that his mobility really impresses me. Romo has fantastic awareness when it comes to understanding movement within the pocket. Sometimes all it takes to extend a play is one step and a weight shift, and Romo really understands these slight nuances.
PLAY IN SCHEME: I believe Tony Romo will see success this year within Dallas’ offensive scheme. DeMarco Murray saw a bit of a sophomore slump in 2012, but he was plagued by injury, missing seven games over the course of the season. Last year the Cowboys were ranked 31st overall in rushing offensive yards, but if Murray can stay healthy this year, Tony Romo will see less pressure due to an improved rush threat, and less predictable play calling from Bill Callahan. Romo’s connective ability with Dez Bryant and Jason Witten is undeniable, and James Hanna, who saw more targets towards the end of last year, (receiving eight for nine for 86 yards with a 10.8 yard average in the last four games of the season) has the receiving ability to give Dallas a dual tight end threat, if his targets increase.
BOTTOM LINE: For his skill level, Tony Romo gets a real bad rap. Improved run support and drafting offensive line help should really help the Cowboy’s offense, and when Romo isn’t under constant attack, he’s an effective passer. If he can keep his head on straight and mature mentally, Dallas could have one of the most potent offenses in the NFC.
2.) KYLE ORTON: GRADE: A
WEIGHT: 225 lbs
ABILITY: In my opinion, Kyle Orton is another quarterback who undeservedly has a poor reputation. In 2011, Orton was replaced as Denver’s starting quarterback following a poor 1-4 start, in which he threw seven interceptions to eight touchdowns passes. However, he threw for 945 yards in these four games, with a passer rating average of 84.3%. In many situations, Orton would not have been replaced so quickly, but Tebow-mania was in full swing, and a desperate fan-base was screaming at John Elway and John Fox to make a change. Once Orton was released, he was picked up by the Chiefs on waivers, and they went on to win three of their next four, including a victory over, then undefeated, Green Bay in which he completed 23 of 31 attempts for 299 yards.
ARM STRENGTH/ACCURACY: Orton has great arm strength and accuracy for a backup quarterback at the NFL level. His accuracy struggles on the deep ball, but excellent velocity and touch is present in intermediate and short passes. At times, pressure affects his decision-making, which has resulted in 57 career interceptions to 14,621 yards and 81 touchdowns. Orton currently has a career 79.7 passer rating, and in his only showing in Dallas last season completed nine for ten, for 89 yards and a touchdown.
BOTTOM LINE: Orton isn’t the most ideal starter, but it’s undeniable that he’s one of the most experienced and effective back up quarterbacks in the NFL. If Tony Romo is injured in 2013, Dallas fans will have an able second-stringer waiting in the wings.
NEW YORK GIANTS: OVERALL GRADE: B-
1.) ELI MANNING: GRADE: B
WEIGHT: 218 lbs
EXPERIENCE: In 2004, Manning was drafted by the San Diego Chargers with the first overall pick and immediately traded to the New York Giants. Since then, he’s been a three time Pro Bowler (2008, 2011, 2012), two time Super Bowl victor and MVP, and currently holds the Giants all time touchdown passing title. He has amassed 31,527 yards, thrown 211 touchdowns, and has a career passer rating of 82.7. All of these statistics look fantastic on paper, so why the B grading?
CONSISTENCY: Despite his extremely impressive play at times, Manning and the Giants define inconsistency. In five playoff appearances, Manning has made it past the first round twice (granted both times he took home a ring). In his eight playoff games in 2007 and 2011, Manning threw a combined two interceptions and passed for 2,073 yards with a 259.1 yard per game average. In his other three playoff games, he passed for 443 yards, with a 147 yard per game average, and threw five interceptions. In addition to these poor performances, the Giants have flat out missed the postseason in 2009, 2010, and 2012 with Manning under center. Despite starting 2012 strong, after a midseason slump (in which he went three games without throwing a touchdown pass) Manning ended the year with almost 1,200 fewer passing yards than his 2011 numbers. His completion percentage also dropped below 60% for the first time since 2007. Perhaps the best news for NFC East opponents is their inconsistency within our division. Since 2008, the Giants have had a winning .62 average record against teams outside the division, but have only managed a .533 average within the NFC East.
ARM STRENGTH/ACCURACY: Manning has a solid arm, no ifs ands or buts about it. He puts great zip on the ball on short and intermediate throws, and is very capable of making the deep ball go where he wants it. The mistakes he does make, which usually are based more on his decision making than his arm, are less noticeable, because his receiving core is strong and versatile.
PLAY IN SCHEME: Even with the release of Ahmad Bradshaw, the Giants have able runners in David Wilson (if he can keep possession of the ball), and Andre Brown, so don’t expect Manning to see added pressure due to a weak run scheme. Losing Victor Cruz would take a huge weapon out of Manning’s arsenal, but I’m assuming he’s signed to a long-term deal soon, having received no offer sheets prior to last Friday. With Cruz, Nicks, Rueben Randle, and the recently acquired Brandon Myers at tight end, Manning should have a dangerous squad receiving his passes.
BOTTOM LINE: I’m honestly not sure what to expect from Eli Manning this year. When he’s on, boy is he on, but when he’s off, the Giants miss the playoffs. In the end, for NY fans, it will depend on which Eli decides to come out and play.
2.) RYAN NASSIB: GRADE C+
WEIGHT: 227 lbs
ARM STRENGTH/ACCURACY: Ryan Nassib has great arm strength. Scouting reports differ on this, but after watching his film from this past season, I was impressed with the zip and velocity he puts on the ball. He is great on short and intermediate routes, and definitely has the power to launch the ball towards the posts. His big problem is suspect accuracy. In games against USC and Louisville, Nassib consistently overthrew his target, and had serious issue leading receivers on slant routes more than 25-30 yards out.
MOBILITY: Nassib is no dual threat, and most likely would excel in a West Coast based offensive scheme. However, he is shifty in the pocket against decent pass rush, extending plays often, and can use his legs to pick up short gains when his line provides him with an opening or on a rollout. Syracuse ran some read-option plays with Nassib under center, but most large yardage gains were from reads that resulted in a throw, not a run.
DECISION MAKING: I’m on the fence about Ryan Nassib’s decision-making ability. He seems very good on the fly, when he’s flushed from the pocket and throwing on the run, and he’s very good at making quick progressions to find a receiver to deliver the ball to, but at other times he throws into double coverage, or rampant traffic in the flat, which resulted in 28 interceptions in his 48 game college career. His quick, but sometimes poor decisions were passable in college, and sometimes resulted in big gains, but I’m not convinced he won’t consistently throw picks against better coverage in an NFL setting.
BOTTOM LINE: From what I’ve seen of Ryan Nassib, I think he could potentially, some day, be a starting quarterback in the NFL. With some grooming under Eli Manning, and an NFL coaching staff, he could really improve the problem areas of his game. I don’t think he’s ready to start in 2013, and that his former coach at Syracuse, Doug Marrone, passed on reuniting with him in the Bills locker room is unsettling.
3.) DAVID CARR: GRADE C
WEIGHT: 216 lbs
COLLEGE: FRESNO STATE
EXPERIENCE: David Carr was selected with the first overall pick in the 2002 draft, and became the starting quarterback for the expansion team Houston Texans. For their first five seasons, Carr started under center, and considering the team’s abysmal offensive line that resulted in pathetic protection (allowed 68 sacks in 2005 alone), did a decent job in his role. After back-to-back losing seasons, Carr was replaced in 2006 and has been relegated to back up duties ever since. He has a career 74.9 passer rating, and has thrown for 14,452 yards, 65 touchdowns, and has turned over 71 interceptions.
BOTTOM LINE: Carr is a solid back-up quarterback. Having said that, Eli Manning isn’t going anywhere. Largely considered one of the most durable quarterbacks in the NFL, Manning has NEVER missed a start since his first in 2004. If Carr were to make it to the field (assuming also he beats Ryan Nassib for the second string role), Giants fans should have faith that he knows the Giants playbook and scheme (having backed up Manning for four seasons), but they should also be wary, as he hasn’t stepped on the field since 2010. In that last performance, Carr recorded a 38.5% completion average on 13 attempts, going for 67 yards, throwing one interception, and walking away with a 23.6 passer rating.